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What Harvard Business School Tells MBA Applicants On Its Waitlist

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The official advice Harvard Business School puts out on its waitlist is one of the more frustrating missives on MBA admissions anywhere. You won’t find out how many people are put on the list in any round or how many are likely to be taken off the list.

Sure, these numbers change from year to year. But it’s unlikely they change very much. So providing a sense of this for applicants who have been stuck in limbo is nerve wracking to say the least. Admission consultants, including several who have worked in HBS admissions, estimate that the school puts between 100 to 150 round one applicants on its waitlist every year. The acceptance rate for those folks can vary between 5% and 15%, dependent on the quality of the round two applicant pool and the internal goals HBS sets for designing a diverse incoming class.

The best way to get off the waitlist? According to Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com, it’s to have a heavyweight call in and sing your praises. Of course, not everyone has an influential donor, recruiter of HBS MBAs or distinguished alum to make that phone call. But Kreisberg says he has seen  this strategy work for several of his clients over the years.

One thing’s certain: The HBS waitlist is as watched by rival admission officials as it is by the people on it. That’s because many people who don’t make the cut obviously go to other elite schools eager to get them. So here’s what HBS says and doesn’t say about being on the dreaded waitlist.

What does it mean to be on the waitlist?

An invitation to join our waitlist is a positive indication of our Admissions Board’s interest. However, the Board has not yet reached a final decision, and seeks permission to continue to consider your application beyond our formal decision date for the application round.

We recognize that candidates must make choices and that you are likely considering other strong alternatives. You may choose to decline our waitlist offer, or to withdraw yourself from the waitlist at any time. Declining our offer or withdrawing from the waitlist is considered a cancellation of a completed application.

Is there anything I can do to improve my candidacy?

HBS is fully committed to the online application process. Our decision will be based upon a continued review of the completed application materials you have already submitted. If we need additional information from you as we make a decision on your candidacy, we will contact you.

How can I find out about my ranking on the waitlist?

The Admissions Board does not “rank” waitlist candidates. The Admissions Board will review candidates on the waitlist on an ongoing basis as spaces become available.

How many people are on the waitlist, and how many receive offers of admission?

The Admissions Board has no specific target for the total number of candidates placed on the waitlist each year. Waitlist decisions are made on an individual basis.

The number of admissions offers extended to waitlist candidates varies widely from year to year, and is very difficult to predict. Historically, anywhere between 50-60 candidates have been admitted off the waitlist in a given year.

How will my candidacy be reviewed?

As the Class of 2019 is selected, the Admissions Board reviews candidates on the waitlist on an ongoing basis as spaces become available. Decision schedules for waitlist candidates do not follow the schedules published for the three application rounds.

While the Board makes every effort to minimize waiting time, your waitlist status may change at any time through July of 2017.

If I am coming to campus, should I meet with an Admissions Board member?

Unfortunately, we are unable to accommodate requests for an individual appointment with a Board member. We do encourage waitlist candidates to continue to assess our MBA Program for fit with your needs. Campus visits, class visits, and campus information sessions can be very useful in helping you reach your own decision. If you would like to schedule a class visit, please contact Jane Turner Michael at classvisits@hbs.edu.

When will I receive a final admissions decision?

Waitlist decisions are made on a rolling basis, with all final decisions made by the end of July. The Admissions Board will notify you by email when your decision has been made.

How do I update my contact information?

The primary means of communication regarding your application will be via email. Please keep your email address and contact mailing address updated at all times by changing your information on your application.

  • Log on to your Applicant Status Page.
  • Edit your mailing address under the Verify Address section.
  • Edit your email address via the “Change Email Address” link under the Account Tools section at the bottom of the page.

I am an international student. If I am offered admission, will I still be able to get through the visa process?

The HBS Admissions Office works closely with Harvard University’s International Office to facilitate visa processing for our students. We will do all we can to assure that our admitted students are able to arrive on campus with ample time to transition to graduate school.

I am a government employee. Will my decision be available in enough time for me to process exit paperwork?

We hope that you have carefully considered the timing of your business school application so that it is an appropriate next step in your career. We make every effort to minimize your wait time to allow you as much time as possible to make the necessary plans in your life. If you are admitted and cannot be released from a government position, the Admissions Board will offer you a one year deferral of matriculation.

We will do all we can to assure that our admitted students are able to arrive on campus with ample time to transition back to school.

How will being on the waitlist this year affect my chances if I reapply in the future?

Each application to our MBA Program is reviewed on its own merit, regardless of previous applications.

Being on the waitlist, declining our invitation, or withdrawing from the waitlist will not affect your chances of admission if you reapply.

Since our applicant pool is different each year, it is difficult to predict an individual’s chance for admission in future years.

How do I withdraw from the waitlist?

In order to decline being placed on our waitlist, please send an email to Eileen Chang in MBA Admissions at eileen_chang@hbs.edu to withdraw.

 

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John A. Byrne is editor-in-chief of PoetsandQuants.com, the highly popular website that covers graduate business education trends, MBA programs, business school rankings, and admission and employment stats. 

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